by Trish Erzfeld, Perry County Heritage Tourism.
In anticipation of the Great American Eclipse of 2017 the City of Perryville located 80 miles southeast of St. Louis has officially begun the daunting but extremely exciting task of planning for the August 21st event. Unlike many small rural communities in Missouri, Perryville has a unique front row seat to possibly the greatest solar eclipse the United States will ever see. But with that amazing view comes many decisions to make concerning the great influx of people that will also want to witness this spectacular natural event. With a city population of 8,225 and a county population totaling 18,971, Perryville will be ready to greet their astronomy fans and solar eclipse chasers possibly doubling their county’s population in one day.
Perryville’s Municipal Airport’s located near the banks of the mighty Mississippi River is directly aligned with the eclipse’s path of totality giving lookers the maximum time of two minutes and 40 seconds! Boasting a 7,000-foot airstrip it is sure to attract many astronomers and eclipse enthusiasts from around the nation.
Currently an Eclipse Taskforce has been assembled and are strategizing on the best possible viewing locations, parking areas, shuttle routes, camping sites and various weekend/evening entertainment options leading up to the main event. This taskforce is made up of City and County officials, Economic Development Authorities, 911 Director, Levee District management, local police and sheriff’s departments, school district and county health department personnel. These are the people, experts in their fields that will help us locate the best viewing sites, map the safest travel routes, bringing community awareness and education to our local residents and creating an overall extraordinary experience for all our solar eclipse hunters.
Arrangements have already been made to bring in a guest speaker to educate all of our county’s school faculty during their Back to School Conference in 2016 so that all the teachers and instructors may have plenty of time to work the eclipse event into their 2017 curriculum. We figured that by reaching and informing 500+ educators they will be better able to help as many as 3,500+ students ranging K-12 experience the Eclipse that day creating a moment in their lives they will never forget. We will also be keeping our area residents informed of our plans and events through our local radio station KSGM 980AM through their noon Focus program. This will be a series of radio interviews leading up to the eclipse event. And for our not-so-local solar eclipse visitors a Perry County Eclipse Facebook page will be created in the near future so that they will be as informed as our local residents about weekend events, happenings and eclipse specials.
So as our taskforce works diligently in the following months to develop the perfect Perry County eclipse experience and viewing site, just know if you are looking for a rural Mississippi River valley country setting away from lights, buildings and pavement…Perry County is your place to sit, stand or lay under the sky and witness the most amazing, unique, extraordinary solar eclipse event to grace the Missouri sky.